Carbohydrate report: reaction in quotes

SACN recommendations on sugar have sparked a torrent of responses

Public Health England will investigate taxing sugary drinks according to the paper it issued alongside the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s (SACN’s) draft report published today (June 26).

SACN’s Carbohydrates and Health report underlined concerns raised by the latest National Diet & Nutrition Survey in May about overconsumption of sugary drinks, particularly among young people, arguing consumers should cut their intake.

PHE’s separate paper, ‘Sugar reduction: responding to the challenge’, proposed what could be done to tackle the issue, including investigating the possibility of a tax on sugary drinks.

Another paper produced by the Directors of Public Health in North West England, indicated such a duty would result in a reduction in the number of cases of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer across the region over the next 20 years.

Here we summarise key responses from retailers, manufacturers, campaigners and consumer groups.


Barbara Gallani, director of regulation, science and health, Food and Drink Federation (FDF): “… Following discussions with the secretary of state for health [Jeremy Hunt], FDF members have agreed to implement a 250 kcal cap on shop bought single-serve confectionery … by spring 2016. Since 2010, billions of single-serve products have been reformulated and/or reduced in size to bring their calorie content to less than 250kcal …”

Richard Pike, md, British Sugar: Given the importance of total calories we are surprised to see that the committee has come to a draft recommendation to halve the consumption of free sugars on a population-wide level to around 5% [of daily dietary energy intake].

“… This sets a level that will be very difficult for most people to meet … the equivalent of consuming the sugars found in a small glass of orange juice and a 125g yoghurt.”

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman, Action on Sugar: Jeremy Hunt MP must start by setting targets for reducing sugar in soft drinks this summer and move responsibility for nutrition to an independent body such as the Food Standards Agency so that the soft drinks and food industry are given a level-playing field, with the threat of regulation …”

The British Nutrition Foundation: “As well as making considerable dietary changes to achieve these new Dietary Reference Values if they are accepted, there are also challenges for consumers … In particular, in accordance with EU legislation there is currently no information about free sugars on food labels (values for total sugars but not free sugars can be provided on front and back of pack labels).”

‘Too many calories’

Gavin Partington, director general, British Soft Drinks Association: “All soft drinks can be part of a balanced diet and lifestyle and while they contribute just 3% of calories to the average UK diet we do recognise that some people are consuming too many calories from them. So it’s important that people balance calorie intake and exercise and recognise the low and no calorie options …”

Malcolm Clark, coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign: “We are … pleased that Public Health England (PHE) will be examining restrictions on marketing to children, the availability of sugary drinks and snacks in hospitals, parks and leisure centres, the removal of sweets and chocolate from the checkout, and the case for introducing a sugary drinks duty.” 

British Dietetic Association honorary chairman, Siân O’Shea: “We strongly urge the food industry to support the promotion of healthier lifestyles and to take action by reducing sugar content in their products.”

Traffic light labelling

Which? food expert Sue Davies: “More manufacturers should follow the lead of retailers by committing to traffic light labelling, so that it’s clear how much sugar products contain, allowing consumers to make an informed choice.” 

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability, British Retail Consortium: “No one has worked harder than our members to give customers more healthy choices when they shop for food and eat at home. We will continue to look for new ways to help tackle unhealthy eating and obesity at the same time as offering delicious and nutritious food for our customers in all our price ranges.” 

Retail initiatives included Sainsbury’s plan to cut 633t of sugar out of consumers’ baskets annually by relaunching its reformulated own-label soft drinks in September 2014, said Opie.

The Food Manufacture Group will be staging a free, one-hour, independent webinar on obesity and its remedies on Thursday, July 3 at 1100 GMT. Book your place at the online seminar – organised in association with the Institute of Food Science & Technology and backed by the British Dietetic Association and Nutrition Society – here.

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